But before you bring a cat into your life, there are a few things you should consider if you want to avoid any nasty surprises.
Things to know before you get a kitten
Nearly one in five of us has a cat. And those people who do own cats usually have lots of great things to say about them! That's great. But they won’t always tell you their full experience of having a cat, because the behaviour that they accept from their pet can actually be quite embarrassing. Cats were first domesticated as long ago as the Neolithic Period. It is likely that the idea of keeping pet cats came about to protect homes from rodents like mice and rats.
Today, this is not something that most urban people need to worry about. But still the habit persists.
How sociable are cats?
One of the reasons we continue to tolerate domestic cats is that people like to have company. For busy people with nobody at home, a cat seems to be a low maintenance pet who will take care of himself in the day, and give you love on your return. Unfortunately, this love is highly conditional. The domestic cat evolved from the African wildcat, which is a solitary creature.
However, when there is plenty to eat, the wildcat may become more sociable. In fact, science is not sure whether the bond between a domestic cat and its owner is personal, or solely to do with the food and shelter you provide. Whatever the answer, a cat is more like a flatmate than a pet, which is what makes them more suitable for a lot of cat-lovers.
How low-maintenance are cats?
Most domestic cats come and go as they please (keeping one as a house cat can lead to stress, inactivity, and obesity). That’s great if you don’t have the time to take your pet for a walk or give it a cuddle during ad breaks as you would a dog, but it is not the same as being low-maintenance. In fact, your cat’s freedom could be more trouble than it’s worth.
Cats often come home with fleas, ticks, infections, or pregnancies that can be both unsanitary and expensive. Cats groom themselves, but this results in hairballs, which they will vomit onto your carpet. And you’ll need to change their litter tray, which can smell sometimes. Every pet comes with its own set of responsibilities, so don't let these issues dissuade you from getting a cat.
Are cats good with children?
It may be your kids who had the bright idea of getting a cat. A cat can be very appealing to a curious child. There are many types of furry pet you might welcome into your house, so think carefully whether the cat is a good option. A cat may join your baby in the crib when you’re not looking, or act aggressively when your children – quite naturally – want to play with it. An important thing to remember is that children who grow up together are kind of like a ‘pack’. When they rough and tumble with each other, they are bonding and learning about life. And they pick up social cues and habits from each other.
The same happens when they share a house with a pet. Cat experts suggest you should teach your children compassion and empathy towards your cat, so they don’t play with it in a way that makes the cat unhappy. But what does the cat teach the children? Certainly not compassion or empathy, nor loyalty, generosity, or humour. You wouldn’t let your child play with another child who was like this, so think carefully whether you want them to grow up in the cat’s influence.
A tiger in sheep’s clothing
The cat experience is very different to the dog experience, especially if you've never had one before. With a dog, what you see is - to some extent - what you get: a fluffy love unit who likes hugs and biscuits. A cat's appearance doesn't represent it's true nature so transparently. They look lovely, but that cuteness disguises a warped soul! That's why some people love cats so much. If you can handle the mystery and the issues mentioned above, a cat may be a good choice for your home.